Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving

From my family, to yours, "Happy Thanksgiving!"

"Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!" - Psalm 100:4

"So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." - 1 Corinthians 10:31

"Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!" - 2 Corinthians 9:15

"And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." - Colossians 3:17

"Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of GOd in Christ Jesus for you." - 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Seven Reasons for Thanksgiving

I have many reasons to be grateful today - health, strength, family, friends, provisions… But here are seven primary reasons I have to especially give thanks to God for his goodness to me.

Life: I thank God that he has spared and sustained my life through another year. As I grow older (and more mature, I hope), I am experiencing an increasingly greater sense of my own mortality. I am still a young man. And I trust I have many more years to live and serve God. But I am also aware that life is “a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes” (James 4:14 – ESV). So I am grateful for every day of life God gives me.

Salvation & spiritual growth: I thank God for saving me by his sovereign grace. I praise the Lord that he has not treated me as my sins deserve. Instead, he has given me eternal life through faith in my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. And I thank God that he is still at work in me, conforming me to the image of his Son. And he will bring the good work he has begun in me to completion at the day of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:6).

Crystal: I thank God for my wife, Crystal Reanne’ Charles. She is my “Sunshine.” It seems like the Lord transforms her into just what I need her to be, exactly when I need it. It is an amazing thing to experience. To steal a line from a Jack Nicholson movie, she makes me want to be a better man. I love her and thank God for giving her to me.

H.B.III & Natalie Marie: I thank God for my two children. They are gifts of God that give a sense of gravity to my life, keeping me from drifting away in superficialities. I praise God as I watch their continual growth and development. And it’s the coolest thing in the world to be their personal “Jungle Jim.” I just don’t have the words to express what they mean to me. I thank God for them and pray that they would continue to grow as Jesus grew (Luke 2:52).

My call to preach: I thank God that he has called me to be a herald of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. My goals for my preaching are pretty simple. I want to be faithful, clear, and authentic. However, these simple goals are incredibly lofty for a sinner like me. I am still amazed that God would use someone like to do something as important as this. I am truly grateful that the primary task of my daily life is to get ready to preach and teach the word of God. I can’t believe I get paid to do this. And I thank God for every opportunity he gives me to proclaim the scriptures, be it in season or out of season.

MSMBC: I thank God for the wonderful privilege of pastoring Mt. Sinai Missionary Baptist Church. November 5th marked the sixteenth anniversary of the day I was selected to pastor this great church. And even though I have been called to spiritually nurture the congregation; they have done just as much to nurture me over the years. The primary human credit for what is good about me and my ministry belongs to the loving membership of MSMBC. I thank God and pray for them in all my prayers (Philippians 1:3-4).

2006: I thank God for all that he has done for me, in me, and through me in 2006. This has been a challenging year for me in some respects. At points, I have been low in spirits to a degree that is not typical of me. But in the midst of it all, God has been faithful. And through the ups-and-downs, the Lord has continued to use me, help me, and bless me. Amazingly, the things that “stick” to me about this year are all positive – that is a reason to be thankful, in and of itself.

Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift.” – 2 Corinthians 9:15 (ESV)

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

You Can Trust the Bible

Here is the sermon skeleton from Sunday's message:

Title: "You Can Trust the Bible"

Text: Psalm 119:137-144

Theme: The trustworthiness of the word of God

Point: You can trust the Bible.


I. You can trust the Bible because it is the word of God (119:137-138).

A. The righteous source of scripture is God (v. 137).

B. The righteous substance of scripture is faithful (v. 138).

II. You can trust the Bible in every situation (119:139-141).

A. It is worthy of your zeal (v. 139).

B. It is worthy of your love (v. 140).

C. It is worthy of your remembrance (v. 141).

III. You can trust the Bible to provide what you need the most (119:142-144).

A. It imparts the truth of God (v. 142).

B. It imparts the joy of God (v. 143).

C. It imparts the life of God (v. 144).

Recoving from a another Long Weekend

This past Friday night, the Pastor’s Aide Team of Los Angeles honored me as their “Pastor of the Year.” The service was held at MSMBC. And several pastoral colleagues and sister churches were here to encourage me and others pastors. I deeply appreciated the kind gestures. But, most of all, I really appreciated the presence of Mt. Sinai. I have served this congregation for almost sixteen years. They are the ones who really know what kind of pastor I am, good or bad. But even though I enjoyed the service, it was rather draining for me. Being in those kind of settings take a lot out of me for some reason. There is such a sense of unworthiness that I feel. I am still a young preacher and pastor. I have a long way to go. Maybe thirty years down the road, I might be more deserving of such an honor. But I do really appreciate the encouragement. Mark it down: Preachers need to be encouraged. And, to be honest, many times I am desperate for it. I just want to know that what I am doing is making a difference. So it’s encouraging to have been considered, no matter what else did or did not happen. Thank you, Mt. Sinai, for every expression of your love me and Crystal. We love you.

Well, what do you do after you are honored as “Pastor of the Year”? You go to Disneyland! That’s what you do. Thinking I would be finished with my work, I promised H.B. and Natalie that I would take them to Disneyland Saturday. Crystal told me not to say anything to them. But I had to open my big mouth – the anticipation is just as much fun as the trip itself. So off we went – Crystal and I, the kids, and my pastor’s grand-daughter. It totally wiped me out. And I got sick. My sinuses started bothering me, and my head was aching. Crystal gave me some medicine. And it helped me to rest… to well. I overslept Sunday morning (something I basically never do). And in the rush to get myself ready, I got sick again. I struggled through the first service. Then I went home, ditching my Sunday School class. I intended to go home and stay, but my headache subsided enough that I came back to preach the second service. The Lord gave me strength to lead the service. But I was totally wiped out afterwards. I rested all Sunday afternoon. And I did as much of nothing as I could yesterday. I am back at work today, and I feeling a lot better. Thanks for your prayers and your notes and/or calls of concern.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Embracing the Wonderful Word of God

Here is the sermon skeleton from Wednesday night's message:

Title: “Embracing the Wonder of God’s Word

Text: Psalm 119:129-136

Theme: The wonderful word of God

Point: You can move beyond the common life by embracing the wonder of God’s word.

Transitional Sentence: Embracing the wonder of God’s word will transform your life in specific three ways.


I. The word of God will renew your mind (119:129-131).

Verses 129-131 shows us three attitudes you must in order to experience the power of God’s word to renew your mind.

A. An attitude of reverence (v. 129)

B. An attitude of openness (v. 130)

C. An attitude of longing (v. 131)

II. The word of God will change your ways (119:132-135).

Verses 132-135 record four things you should pray for in order to
experience the power of God’s word to change your ways.

A. Pray for God’s gracious intervention (v. 132).

B. Pray for God’s sanctifying power (v. 133).

C. Pray for God’s mighty deliverance (v. 134).

D. Pray for God’s for divine favor (v. 135).

III. The word of God will break your heart (119:136).

A. Godly sorrow ought to lead you to talk to God about unbelievers.

B. Godly sorrow ought to lead yout o talk to unbelievers about God.

Resisting Empty Homiletics

Early in my pastoral ministry, a wise professor warned me to make sure my preaching was more like roots than like pipes. The water and other nutrients a tree or plant needs are found passes through the roots. And as the roots feed the tree, the roots themselves become stronger. However, water passes through pipes without the water benefiting the pipes in any way. The water helps others, but not the pipes. In fact, the longer the water passes through the pipes, the more rust and decay corrupt the pipes. So those of us who preach and teach the word must vigilantly strive to be roots, not pipes, as we minister the word of God to others.

I face this challenge each week in preaching and teaching. Ninety-nine percept of the time, I am plodding through new scriptural territory. And I am taking in so much that sometimes it is hard to keep up. I also face the fact that Wednesday and Sundays come with blinding speed. For instance, I have been studying Psalm 119 on Wednesdays for the better part of this year. And it has definitely been a challenge, homiletically. First of all, it is one (singular) psalm, with basically the same theme approached from different angles. Likewise, many of the same terms and phrases are used in stanza after stanza, requiring that I keep considering fresh ways to same the same thing. And each stanza is eight verses long. This forces me to think about how to organize the messages differently, so that they don’t sound redundant. In some stanzas, this is rather easy to do – as the outline of the section is obvious. But with others, you have to wrestle with it a little bit to get it to yield. These practical challenges require me to work hard to make sure I am feeding my own soul as I do that nuts and bolts work of ministering to my beloved congregation. I do not want to be a “preaching machine,” in the bad sense of the term. I don’t want to be a pipe that pumps out sermons, without my life being changed by the word that I preach.

Recently, my son told me that when he grows up he wants to writer sermons, just like me. I was surprised and encouraged to hear him say this, seeing my son is usually rather intimated by what I do. But I also found it funny that he did not say that I preach sermons. Most of the time, he catches me in the process of preparation. And it seems like the actually preaching of the sermons is just a momentary blur. But I must remember that my preparation really isn’t about the preaching of sermons. My study is to be for the feeding of my own soul. And the congregation is to receive the fruit of my personal time with God in prayer, meditation, and study. Even though the preaching moment is the most urgent matter; it’s not the most important. The life I live and the work I do between sermons are more important than the sermons themselves. So may the Lord grant that my personal life and commitment to sound doctrine be a system of strong roots from which much fruit grows to his glory.

Monday, November 13, 2006

My Final Speaking Engagements for 2006

This past week, I spoke at the last three meetings outside of MSMBC that I have scheduled for 2006. Tuesday (11/7), I spoke at the Perfect Peace Bible Church in Los Angeles, where Charles Ashley is the pastor. Wednesday through Friday (11/8-10), I spoke at the Union Evangelistic Baptist Church in Chicago Heights, where Pastor James Flint has served for over thirty-five years. Pastor Flint began his ministry under my father, many years ago. And it was an honor to have this opportunity to preach to the warm congregation of the Union Church. I also had the opportunity to meet pastor’s son, James Jr., who serves with his father at Union. Of course, I am always moved when I see fathers and sons serving together in the work of ministry. It was a real joy to be in Chicago Heights (a suburb in south Chicago), until Friday. It was so warm and sunny Wednesday and Thursday. I thought I wouldn’t need all the stuff I brought to bundle up in. But Friday it was cold, windy, and raining (when I woke up from a nap Friday afternoon, I looked out the window and saw that it was raining sideways!). It was Chicago. And I couldn’t wait to get on that plane and get back to civilization.

Saturday morning, I flew to Houston to preach for Dr. A. Louis Patterson Jr. at the Mt. Corinth Baptist Church. I was a teenager when I first heard Pastor Patterson preach. I bought a tape of him in a church bookstore. And two things happened. First, I straight stole that sermon. I preached that thing all over town. In fact, today – almost twenty years later – I can recall that message well enough to steal it again, if need be. (I trust, however, that I have enough of my own work stored up so that I would not have to steal if I was in a jam). The second thing that happened is that Pastor Patterson became another strong link in the chain that pulled me toward expository preaching. Over the years, Pastor Patterson’s manner and ministry has been an example for me in so many ways. And I am overwhelmed by the fact that he has been a source of great kindness and encouragement to me – both he and his dear wife. So when Dr. Patterson asked me to preach for him a month or so ago, the answer way yes even before he asked. I do not usually leave my pulpit on Sunday mornings; but an invitation from Dr. Patterson is an instant and automatic exception.

Yesterday was Men and Women’s Demonstration Day at Mt. Corinth. However, there was only a brief acknowledgement of it. There was no pomp and circumstance connected to this annual day. In this, Dr. Patterson and I are kindred spirits. I preached both morning services. The congregation was attentive, warm, and responsive in both meetings. What can I say? Mt. Corinth is a great church! The members of the congregation reflect a genuine love for Jesus Christ, the scriptures, their pastor, Mt. Corinth, and one another. If there are unloving members of Mt. Corinth, Dr. Patterson must hide them in the basement before I arrive. Much of the spirit of the congregation is the result of the Lord’s work in and through Dr. Patterson. His often speaks of “joy for the journey.” And this is spirit seems to have become contagious in Mt. Corinth. It was a great blessing to worship and fellowship with the Dr. and Mrs. Patterson and the wonderful congregation at Mt. Corinth. The twenty-four hours I was there seemed to fly by. But I was glad to get home to Crystal, H.B., and Natalie last night. Praise God for his continued blessings of strength, guidance, and mercy.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Perfect Peace and Union Evangelistic

I spoke at the Perfect Peace Bible Church in Los Angeles Tuesday night. Pastor Charles Ashley asked me to come several months ago, when we saw each other at a convention meeting. But we failed to talk again after that. So there was somewhat of a scheduling conflict. But I was able to speak Tuesday night. Pastor “Scruffie” Shiggs and the Love Lifted Me Church family were also in attendance. MSMBC partnered in ministry with this congregation some years ago. And it is such a joy to see how the Lord is continuing to work in and through this unique congregation.

Last night, I began the first of three nights at the Union Evangelistic Baptist Church in Chicago Heights, Ill. Pastor James Flint, who has served this congregation for 38 years, began preaching under my father in Los Angeles. I am encouraged to see how the Lord continues to sustain the impact of my father’s work, even though he went home to be with the Lord 17 years ago. Pastor Flint serves the Union Church family with his son, James, Jr. And, of course, it blesses me to see a father and son working together in this way. I was so grateful to be in worship last night. Union is a good preaching place. I look forward to the next two nights.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Christianity at its Worst and its Best

Over the past week, America has had a front row seat to see Christianity on display at both its worst and its best. Last week, Ted Haggard, the former pastor of New Life Church in Colorado Springs and former president of the National Association of Evangelicals, was confronted with allegations of gross sinful behavior. And though he claims that all of the charges against him are not true, he admits that enough of them are true to warrant him being removed from his various ministry leadership posts. In a letter read to New Life this past Sunday, Haggard described himself as “a deceiver and a liar,” as he confessed his sexual immorality to the congregation he formed. What can I say? It is a bad when leaders fall into gross sin that brings reproach to the name of Jesus Christ. And it is sad that the “celebrity preacher” mindset, which has corrupted Christianity in America, pressures men to pretend to be something they are not. And it sad that we allow a few high-profile preachers to become the “voice” of Christianity, causing the credibility of the church to rise or fall with the statements and conduct of a few “big named” religious personalities. And it is sad that many people have been hurt, disillusioned, and turned off by these events.

Indeed, this scandal has exposed Christianity at its worst. But, at the same time, this situation has demonstrated Christianity at its best. Even though New Life is an independent church, Haggard and his associates apparently organized the congregation with an elaborate system of accountability, in the unfortunate event that something like this would happen. Many congregations that are closely affiliated with associations and denominations do not have this kind of accountability system for its leadership. Haggard’s fate was not in his own hands, or in the hands of his hand-picked staff, but was in the hands four pastors, called “overseers,” who lead churches in different parts of the county. Haggard and New Life gave them full authority to decide when and how the pastor should be disciplined or removed. And that system was followed by all involved. You may not like the system. But at least they had one. And they followed it.

A letter was also read to the New Life congregation Sunday from Haggard’s wife, Gayle. Addressing her comments to the women of the church, she wrote, “I love my husband, Ted Haggard, with all my heart. I am committed to death do us part. ... My test has begun. Watch me. I will try to prove myself faithful” Wow! Claiming “irreconcilable differences”, many people quit their marriages for far less than what Mrs. Haggard is experiencing. I know that many people may think that she should leave him. And, eventually, that may be what she does. But the fact that this was her initial response is remarkable to me. It seems so “Job-like” to me. May she experience the sufficient grace and enabling help of God during this trial.

What was New Life’s response to the news of Haggard’s sin and his admission of guilt? They forgave him. No doubt, this congregation is experiencing hurt, grief, and betrayal, as they have been caught in the crossfire of this controversy. Yet, they have chosen to forgive him. And they have affirmed their continued love for Haggard and his family. And in their worship services Sunday , they prayed for his full restoration and return to public ministry, even though it was said that he would never return to the pastorate at New Life. They even prayed for the gentlemen whose allegations kicked-off this sad saga. This, again, is Christianity at its best. We are people of grace. We forgive, not because people deserve it, but because we have been forgiven. May the Lord comfort this congregation, send them a godly shepherd soon, and continue to use them as a witness for Christ in the days to come.

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. – Galatians 6:1 (ESV)

Monday, November 06, 2006

The Way of Salvation

Here is the sermon skeleton from yesterday's message:

Title: "The Way of Salvation"

Text: Ephesians 2:8-10

Theme: The way of salvation

Point: Christians need to understand how we got save just as much as non-Christians need to understand how to get saved.


I. We need to understand the source of salvation: "by grace you have been saved" (2:8a)

II. We need to understand the means of salvaiton: "through faith" (2:8a)

III. We need to understand the nature of salvation: "It is the gift of God" (2:8c)

A. Self does not save: "And this is not your own doing" (2:8b)

B. Works do not save: "not a result of works" (2:9)

IV. We need to understand the purpose of salvation: "for good works" (2:10)

A Recap of a Long Weekend

This weekend, the pastoral leaders and staff of MSMBC met together for our annual retreat, in which we review the previous year and plan for the coming year (and beyond). While I noted that Friday's meeting went well; Saturday was a litter tougher. Our congregation worships at a location where there is no parking (members park a block or so away, behind a supermarket). We do not have much Christian education space either (we also use another building a block away for Sunday School). And our building needs much repair. And as we process the options that we have, it is always difficult for us to reach consensus on what to do, what to do first, and how to do it. Our Saturday meeting reflected this struggle. We did not get accomplished all that I hoped. But we were able to take some good steps forward. I praise God for this. We are trusting God to make room for us - in both place and space. Continue to pray for us about these matters.

I was beat Sunday morning. I think the weekend had caught up with me. I was really movign in slow motion when I woke up. Praise God that I already had my sermon ready before the weekend started (which almost never happens). All I had to do was review my manuscript through the weekend. Yet, I still ended up preaching from the manuscript at the 8 AM service. I read much of it, even though I knew the sermon. I was just tired. I went to the pulpit with it again at 11 AM. But before I read my text, I put my manuscript back in the folder and just went for it. God was faithful to bless the presentation of his word in both services. The message was a contination of study of Ephesians (2:8-10).

Speaking of Ephesians... It my intention to break from the exposition of Ephesians at this point. I am not yet finished with my exposition of Psalm 119. I have 6 more sections to go. And I intend to preach through them on Wednesdays and Sundays, so that I can get it done be year's end. Come January, I would like to start editing the manuscripts for publication. But it would be quite an ambition project. We'll see. I plan to resume Ephesians on Wednesday nights some time in 2007. We have planned several shorter series for the Sunday meetings in 2007. There are some specific subjects that I want to address. I tried to do that this year. But there was a gap between planning and preparation. I trust that will be different this time around. Please remember my pulpit ministry at MSMBC in your prayers.

Yesterday afternoon, we joined the First Goodwill Baptist Church in celebrating their pastor's 4th anniversary. Clinton Smith is my brother-in-law, married to my older sister Tracy. He started preaching here at MSMBC during the early days of my pastorate. And I praise God for the years we served together, and the opportunities I had to see the Lord develop him and his ministry. He was even our full-time Pastor of Christian Education for a period. The First Goodwill Church had faced some challenges, before Clint's ministry began there. Yet, he has had to minister through them. And I am really proud of his diligence, focus, and confidence in God. Please remember this pastor and church in your prayers.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

2006 Church Council Fall Retreat

I am at the 2006 MSMBC Church Council Retreat. Actually, the staff and the pastoral leaders of the church are together this weekend - evaluating the past year of ministry and planning for the upcoming year. This is the fourth of fifth time we have done this. And it is usually a great time of prayer, fellowship, and vision-casting. This year is no different. No, I take that back. It is a little different this year. We have come here with a pretty clear and unified agenda of matters we need to process and made decisions about before we go into 2007. Yesterday was a good start. We were able to address most of the things that we scheduled for the agenda. We were even able to move forward on some of the challenging subjects we have to tackle. This is truly a blessing from God. In the past, it has been much harder for us to work some through issues. And we have used the blocks of time reserved for five different things just to cover one. I am not sure what is making the difference this year. But, whatever it is, I credit God for it. Please pray that today's meetings will be just as productive and will bear much fruit to the glory of God. And pray that God will use us in a greater way in 2007 to win more Christians and to develop better Christians to the glory.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Praying your Way through Mistreatment

I continued my exposition of Psalm 119 in our Midweek Worship Service last night. At this point, I am pressing to conclude this study by the end of the year. That's the plan. I hope I am able to accomplish it. Here is the skeleton from last night's message on the sixteenth stanza of Psalm 119.

Title: “Praying your Way through Mistreatment

Text: Psalm 119:120-128

Theme: A prayer for deliverance from unjust suffering

Point: You can trust God to do what is right even when it seems that everything is going wrong.

Transitional Sentence: In this Ayin stanza of Psalm 119, the writer shows us three things to pray for when we are being mistreated for doing what is right.


I. Pray for personal deliverance (119:121-123).

Verses 121-123 remind us of three attributes of God we can out on as we pray for personal deliverance.

A. God is holy (v. 121).

B. God is good (v. 122).

C. God is faithful (v. 123).

II. Pray for spiritual enlightenment (119:124-125).

The spiritual enlightenment you need to deal with mistreatment will come as you seek the favor and wisdom of God.

A. Seek the favor of God (v. 124).

B. Seek the wisdom of God (v. 125).

III. Pray for divine intervention (119:126-127)

There are two things you must remember as you wait on God to intervene to change your situation.

A. God’s timing is perfect (v. 126).

B. God’s truth is perfect (vv. 127-128).

1. Treasure it (v. 127)
2. Trust it (v. 128)

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The Burden of Ministry

"If I Should write of the heavy burden of the godly preacher, which he must carry and endure, as I know from my own experience, I would scare every man from the office of preaching." - Martin Luther, The Table Talk of Martin Luther